Tag Archives: hope

Empowerment

It often upsets me how many people I know who feel completely disempowered in their own lives. I realise that being a young person can suck – I’ve had my share of crappy times (not that I think it’s ever about comparison). But no matter who you are or what you’re going through – where you end up comes down to choice.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re disabled, or depressed, or homeless, or an addict. I’m not talking about circumstances here: obviously there are times when things are out of our control. I’m talking about the self depreciating beliefs which perpetuate cycles of disempowerment. In terms of perception, there is nothing stopping us from believing that things can be better. I realise that there are external influences, of course, but eventually it has to come from within. Eventually there has to be a point when you decide that there will be no more of this. And no – I’m not for a second implying that the darkness leaves in that moment, but perspective makes such a difference. The realisation that you are enough, just as you are, and that you are in control, brings a whole new understanding to the table.

It’s only been the last twelve months for me that I’ve come to realise that I am in control of where my life ends up. Despite all of the shit up to this point, where I go from here is up to me. Realising this felt like such a revolutionary shift in my understanding of the world – that if I make choices in line with my values, I will end up somewhere that I want to be. Perhaps it’s a step from victim to survivor. It’s so simple in theory, but we seem to find it so difficult to apply to our own lives.

I’m not going to pretend that I don’t still suffer. I coax spoonfuls of food into my mouth and regularly wake up to the sound of my own sobbing, I still often wonder whether there is any point to this at all. But I’ve learnt that no matter what happens, it will not break me. I’ve been to the edge. I spent years there, teetering on my toes, staring into the abyss. At times I began to fall, only to be pulled back – by friends, family, doctors. I came back. And despite that being the most painful thing I have ever done, in doing so I guaranteed myself life. A life that is worth something, that has some meaning. That doesn’t revolve around my complete absence of self worth or self belief. A life that is still worth fighting for.

Life isn’t all smooth sailing. (Congratulations, way to make the most obvious point ever). Life is mountains and valleys – it’s joy and pain – and it’s only if you’re willing to endure the darkness that you see that it’s never entirely void of light. When you’re stuck at the bottom of a valley it’s easy to fall prey to the belief that you’ll never make it out. But as long as you keep putting one foot infront of the other, as long as you keep breathing – you will get there. For as long as you’re breathing, there is hope. Your life is yours.

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Day 17: Someone from your childhood

Day 17: 30 letters in 30 days

J

I like to think that wherever you are, you can see this. See all of us, all the people you helped. I remember your office. Two pictures of cats on the wall, the uncomfortable blue chair, the tiny plastic figurines on your windowsill. Every week, for five years. I can’t begin to thank you enough. C called me last year, to tell me that you had died. I felt like I had no right to be upset, and maybe I don’t. But I’m grieving the idea that I wish you could know that I’m doing okay now, that I’m not that broken girl anymore. Perhaps it is irrelevant, but I just wish that I could go there, wherever you are, and say, thankyou for trying to help me, things were pretty shit then and they still get like that now but I’m here. I’m still alive. And I think that’s more than either of us imagined. I know I didn’t talk much to you, I know you tried so hard. You tried so hard & I fought back just as intensely, sitting staring at the floor, refusing to say a word. Thank you. Thank you, never enough.

I hope you can see things from where you are now. How much as changed. I hope you feel fulfilled to know all the people you helped, and all the people you tried to help, and maybe they didn’t let you, but a lot of them have probably turned out okay too. I hope you can see it all and I hope you are at peace. I think about you often. You were one of the first to see that anything was wrong. I was twelve, and called to your office. I don’t even remember what we talked about – I probably didn’t talk at all. But you knew. All through high school, all the outside therapy and medication and hospitals and doctors, you were always there as the constant. You always called me when I was in hospital. You went to my house and dropped off work to my parents because you knew I was going crazy in hospital having nothing to do. There’s so many things I wish I could say to you, but it all comes back to the same sentiment: thank you.

It still hurts. That someone who only ever tried to help me and my family, who only ever tried to help everyone that she came into contact with is gone from the world. That it was so sad that you came into my life when I was too unhappy to see how much of a beautifully positive and spiritual person you were and to let you help me in that way, especially because there must have been so many like me that you didn’t penetrate. I hope that didn’t trouble you too much. There is nothing that can be underestimated about the amount you impacted upon my life.

I want you to know that I’m doing okay. I don’t say this to be arrogant, I just want you to know. I know you cared, not just because it was your job, but that you genuinely cared. I didn’t realise it back then, but I do now. Everyone I spoke to at the funeral reminded me. Teachers, telling me how much you had genuinely been invested in my health. That you’d always be asking after me, how I was, was I okay in class? Because I wouldn’t talk about what was wrong. But you cared about my life. You cared that I stayed alive.

Thank you again, and again, and again. I’m sure there are people everywhere thinking the same things. People who have shared their hearts with you, confessions, secrets. I never told you mine. Where you are now, you can see. And I hope you never felt like you ‘failed’ me, because you didn’t. You kept me going when the threads of my life were coming apart.

Thank you. From a heart hurt, but healing…not ‘but’. And. From a heart hurt, and healing. It’s a long road, but I hope that I can be like you – that I can have that influence on the lives of children and young people. You were an amazing woman, and I will never forget that.

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Past, present & future

16 Years ago I: Was 5. In kindergarten at my local primary school. I was in a composite K/1 class and I remember making pancakes and writing down the recipe – it’s still pasted in my mum’s recipe book. I went to my friend’s house after school everyday because my parents worked. We spent a lot of afternoons taking their dog for walks down the fire trails to the river and painting empty coffee jars with glass paints.

10 Years ago I: Was 11. I’d changed schools into an accelerated stream at a school about half an hour from home. I travelled to school each day via train, bus and walking, which took me about an hour each way. I had gymnastics training four days a week and was playing netball, sailing and continuing to learn the flute & piano. Each day for lunch I packed four vita weats with vegemite, and I remember one day one of the teachers wouldn’t let me play soccer at lunch because they said I hadn’t eaten enough. I was self harming daily – usually with broken glass that I would collect on my walks home from school. Often I would pretend to be sick in order to stay home alone and smash beer bottles from the recycling bin. I got in trouble for refusing to take my jumper off during hot days at school. My older brother was getting heavily involved in drugs, which all came out towards the end of the year.

5 Years ago I: Was 16. I spent the year mostly in hospitals, both public and private on general psych, mood & eating disorder units. My birthday, christmas and new years were all spent on an eating disorder unit with a tube up my nose. I started seeing a private psychologist after having discharged myself from the child & adolescent area health service, but refused to speak about what was going on for me. I hadn’t yet admitted to myself that I had an eating disorder – despite the hospitalisations and clearly failing health. Twice I overdosed, waking up in hospital and pronouncing that I was fine. Thankfully, they didn’t believe me.

1 Year ago I: Was 20. Had to quit my job as a nanny for two amazing, amazing children. I should have died several times, but thanks to my treatment team, my friends and some helpful strangers, I didn’t. I spent a long time under a legally ordered treatment plan, locked in a public psych ward, having 3x weekly ECT. I also spent time in a private hospital’s ICU – where I found that the thing I missed most was fresh air. I somehow continued to take a full time load at university studying by distance. I don’t have many memories and my journals don’t make much sense, but I know that on December 2nd I was discharged from hospital on the first effective medication regime in seven years, which (along with more work than I ever thought possible) has changed my life infinitely for the better.

Yesterday I: I woke up, healthy, with the knowledge that the world hasn’t beaten me. I attended the final day of the 8th Australian & New Zealand Adolescent Health Conference, and it was incredible. I left feeling capable, inspired, and motivated that I can make a difference. I came home and did some study for my biopsychology exam next Friday. I went to the doctor, then dropped by a friend’s place to drink tea and watch a movie. By the time I got home I was exhausted, but feeling as though I’m finally in the right place, headed down the right road.

Today I: Slept in and had breakfast on the back porch with my kitten. I spent a couple of hours studying biopsychology and going over my statistics notes for exams, then had an afternoon nap. I’m now watching Community (hilarious!) with my sister. I should probably be studying, but I’m still somewhat exhausted post-conference.

Tomorrow I: Will continue to study for biopsychology and statistics. I will be grateful that I’m alive, that I have wonderful people around me and that I am entirely capable of doing and being absolutely anything. I’m sure I will learn something new, and find some beauty where I haven’t seen it before. I will be ready for whatever comes.

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Day 5: Your dreams

Day 5 – 30 letters in 30 days

Dear (sleeping) dreams,

I miss you. For years all I remember are nightmares. I’ve now solved this problem by sleeping in half hour intervals and never allowing myself to enter REM. Which is a questionable solution – I avoid the nightmares, but it feels like I never actually fall asleep.

Hopefully one day we will reacquaint ourselves. I miss you.

Dear (waking) dreams,

Thank you for constantly building upon yourself and keeping me motivated. There is so much in the world that I want to see, and do, and be, and experience. Please never stop. Never let me stop dreaming.

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Protected: The Choice

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Autobiography in five small chapters

I.
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

II.
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend that I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

III.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit … but, my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

IV.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

V.
I walk down another street.

Portia Nelson

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Everything in the world

I’m generally a fairly patient person. I’m not one to get frustrated in traffic or worry about waiting for people, I’m happy to just sit and observe. But lately I have this burning feeling that I want to just be out there, in the world – doing, seeing, learning. I’ve not yet finished my first undergraduate degree and already I just want to get out of university and make a difference. I want to meet all different kinds of children and young people, I want to hear about their lives, I want to feel their experiences. I want to help those who don’t know how to help themselves yet.

I often get incredibly frustrated at how mundane university can be and how pointless it all feels, and I need to remind myself that there is a reason that I’m studying my arse off and constantly pushing myself. All the sleepless nights and anxiety attacks over exams – they will pay off. I just wish it would happen now.

Another thing I am currently preoccupied with is the feeling (the need) – I want to travel the world. I’ve spent some time in South East Asia and have done quite a bit of travel within Australia, but I want to be completely immersed in different cultures. I want to see. Over this summer I will be travelling to Vietnam, Italy, Spain, France, the UK and Northern America. I’ve already started tentatively planning my trip after this one – either to India or Borneo, to work as a volunteer, or to South America to stay in ashrams and work on farms. But there’s so much more I want to see and do – I want to stand in a paddock in the middle of Ireland and feel completely free. I want to sail around the Greek Islands and see the volcanoes in Iceland. I want to sit in the dirt and play with children in Africa.

I feel like the world is just so huge and I am just one person – but I want to see it all. I want to make a difference. There’s a crushing feeling that I can never be everything I want to be. There is so much desire in me, and one person can only do so much.

This quote has been resonating with me a lot lately:

“Listen – I want to run all my life, screaming at the top of my lungs. Let all of life be an unfettered howl. Like the crowd greeting the gladiator. Don’t stop to think, don’t interrupt the scream, exhale, release life’s rapture. Everything is blooming. Everything is flying. Everything is screaming, choking on its screams. Laughter. Running. Let down hair. This is what there is to life”
– Vladimir Nabokov

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Hopes & Hindsight

It’s a strange experience to be on the ‘other side’ of mental health providing. The last nine years of my life have been punctuated by hospital admissions, legally ordered treatments and countless appointments. And now, from where I am, it actually feels as though I’m looking back on those times, as opposed to being caught up in the whirlwind of them. I know I’m not entirely recovered – but I’m infinitely better than I once was.

I’m not one for religion or pinning things down to ‘fate’, but 2011 so far has been a whole new experience for me. It’s been about finding myself (as cliched as that sounds) – literally, picking up the pieces left after my past has settled and learning to form some semblance of an identity. I’ve re-assessed my relationships, values, health and hopes and I feel like I’ve come out a much more whole person than I have ever been before.

The people I have in my life now, the work I’m doing with various organisations and the degree I’m studying – for once it feels like I’m in the right place. I’m on the right track. I’m exactly where I’m meant to be. And everything that has happened up until this point is okay. I can live with it. I have lived with it. And I will continue to. I know too well that there are people who live with these struggles for their entire lives, and I’ve been told a million times that I will be one of them. That used to feel like a death sentence, but my eyes are starting to open a little wider.

Where once I couldn’t see beyond the next few hours without my vision fading to black, I now have plans. I want to finish my degree. I want to study after that – I want to work with children and young people in a capacity that empowers them to learn to help themselves. I want to fall in love and have a family, own a home and have my own garden. I want to grow my hair longer and get more tattoos. One day, I want to have a book published.

In six weeks I will be leaving the country to spend twelve weeks travelling around the world. I’m incredibly excited (and terrified); this is a huge step for me. It’s a step into the person I’m becoming – the person I want to be. I think, for the first time in my life, I kind of like her.

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